11 March 2013

Please don't bite the ambo.

Because someone else is dying.

You're hurt. You're bleeding. You're scared. You're not quite sure what's going on, but you know help is on the way. Just at the point when panic starts knocking on the back of your throbbing and dazzled head, the scene starts pulsating with a startling but reassuring light and some uniformed men and women step into view, calmly and swiftly assessing the situation, asking your name and getting down to the business of making everything better. 

Now there's nothing left for you to do but bite the paramedic on the arm.

This happens. Way too often. I've written about the realities of ambulancing before, but this week, after reading an article in the Coffs Coast Advocate about recent assaults on ambulance officers (six assaults in one area command so far this year), I got cross. And when my husband came home from night shift, yet again completely deflated from spending 12 hours showing up to what most people wouldn't consider an emergency, I thought it was time to write. 

These men and women just want to do the job they're paid for. Without abuse, without people deliberately rorting the system for their own benefit, and without being called out at 3am to treat a bit of a sore foot that started two days ago. You can't punch, swear at, lie to, cheat or waste the time of an ambo* without it taking its toll. So please don't.

Dear Sir, I know a tickly throat can have you feeling low,
And it’s never very pleasant when you stub your little toe,
And that week-old splinter looks a little yucky. Even so,
If it’s midnight, do you think it warrants calling Triple-0?

Dear Ma’am, it must be nice to have a hospital next door,
But when you go out and drink until you’re sprawled upon the floor,
And you call the paramedics to exclaim “My chest is sore!”
Just to get a lift back home for free, that isn’t what they’re for.

Dear friend, I understand that you don’t mean to be a pain,
And attempts to stop compulsions are so often made in vain,
And although you comprehend when calm professionals explain,
You called twice this week, and later on today you’ll call again.

Dear onlookers and mates, it’s good to have you on the case;
To assist your injured loved one at this time and in this place.
Since you called for help, perhaps you’d give the officer some space,
And refrain from shouting “F*CK OFF C*NT!” and head-butting her face?

*...or a police officer, firey, nurse, emergency doctor, social worker, counsellor or other brilliant person who spends their days and nights away from their families looking after you.

I should probably clarify something, because I don't want people to think that emergency services personnel aren't the right people to call when you're having a difficult time, even if that means you might react evasively or aggressively. Some behaviour is related to medical or mental issues (whether temporary, drug-related, chronic or whatever) and is part and parcel of treating a patient - ambos and cops know that and are trained for it. It would be naive to expect that emergency workers aren't going to face aggression, violence or unpredictable behaviour in their jobs. In short: if you need police, ambulance, rescue or a fire crew, call them. If you don't, let them get on with the job.


  1. I called an ambulance two weeks ago. Drunk and alone and suicidal. They sent the police too, who showed up first. which freaked me out and I nearly ran away from them but then the ambulance showed up and I can remember myself repeating 'Please, I'll go with them".

    My cop friend tells me it's often like that for possibly dangerous to themselves patients, but it freaked me the hell out.

    That's all. Only time I've been in an ambulance.

    I didn't hurt anyone, but I nearly bolted...

    1. Oh, Fiona, I hope things are a little brighter for you today. I also hope that's the last time you need an ambulance, and I that they treated you well.

  2. I can only offer a sympathetic "aaargh!" at the thought of emergency services people being subjected to all that.